HIPAA’s Role in Medical Power of Attorney
If you are caring for a loved one, you need to know about HIPAA. Although the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA for short, was established in 1996, it wasn’t until 6 years later, in 2002, that the Privacy Rules were enacted. Prior to the rules, personal health information could pass between anyone; from your doctor to the hospital to insurers, even third parties. All of this without an individual knowing, let alone consenting.
When the HIPAA Privacy Rules first were enacted, the main goal was to protect the confidentiality and security of individual healthcare information. In accordance with the rules, all providers of health care cannot disclose Protected Health Information (PHI) to anyone other than the individual, unless properly authorized. However helpful this federal law is, it may sometimes make it difficult to access the medical records of a parent or spouse, or the other way around.
“For example, let’s say that your mother is severely diabetic and falls into a coma. To make sure she gets appropriate medical care while she is hospitalized, you’ll need health care information from her personal physician. HIPAA regulations, however, prohibit you from accessing this data without your mother’s specific written authorization.”
So how does one get authorized to access another’s complete PHI? You need to be listed as the personal representative in their medical power of attorney. Be sure the power of attorney includes a HIPAA waiver/release that indicates exactly what personal health information can be disclosed, who’s allowed to disclose it, such as a doctor, and who’s allowed to receive it (i.e. the personal representative). Adding in language that mentions disclosure of PHI will not violate the HIPAA Privacy Rules is also a good idea. So when a health care provider goes to review the power of attorney, they can easily recognize that they are within the boundaries of the rules.
If you want to ensure that your personal medical history is accessible, be it for precautionary measures or in case of an emergency, reach out to us at the Law Office of Christina Lesher, PC. We’ll be happy to discuss setting up or revising your power of a attorney to make sure everything complies with HIPAA.